It doesn’t seem to have been very effective,
that Johanine blessing of peace
upon the lips of Jesus.
Wars, crusades and other violences
have never been in short supply
throughout the years of Christendom.
And so we internalised peace;
pointing to the interior serenity
of those who have come
to worship the Christ.
Self-satisfied peace is not worthy
of disciples.It seems a sad substitute
for an end to brutality, violence and bitterness,
not to mention suffering, abuse, hatred
and fear-engendering politics.
see for yourself.
“My peace I give to you,”
the Nazarene is reported as saying.
Are these words for real?
It we take them seriously,
we might need to accept our discipleship calling
to become makers of peace;
we might need to actually do something.
Something to give peace substance,
to clothe it in reconciling flesh and blood,
like the one who came to be its prince.
Something that helps end the fear
and begins to make peace happen.
In 1915 numerous sons
and a few daughters embarked on ships
to participate in a war.
We grew up saluting the flag on Mondays,
and hearing, each April.
the stories of war.
Ours was a young nation, proud, defiant, fearless;
born, we were told, in blood, on the battlefields
and in the trenchesof Turkey, Belgium and France.
We heard of courage, larrikin resourcefulness,
These brave soldiers were injured, traumatised and died,
the grand myth attests,
for us, and for our freedom.
We honoured their sacrifice;
remembering, too, those who served in later conflicts.
A century later
the stories become a celebratory avalanche;
while dignitaries and politicians make their preparations
to assemble at Anzac Cove. There they will glory in the moment.
The legendary spirit, however, has become elusive,
betrayed by a nation that has become afraid to love
and by its even more fearful leaders.
Back in this fortunate land, desperate people,
whose only crime was to come seeking refuge,
are, for political convenience,
denied the same freedom so fiercely defended by our forebears.
They are sent off-shore, to be imprisoned behind wire fences
and within an officially sanctioned conspiracy of silence.
For convenience. And for shame.
It is a costly convenience;
in more ways than one.
He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.
God is idle, declares the small white badge
purchased from the NGV
after viewing an exhibition of contemporary art.
In spite of the confident declaration
of the ancient prophet,
I find myself forced to agree.
The god who intervenes in human affairs
giving power to the faint and strengthening the powerless,
appears to have gone missing.
Who has less power
than those who cross hazardous seas
in nervous wooden boats;
fearful, fleeing; seeking, pleading
for refuge and compassion?
Their anxieties compound, multiplying
behind iron gates and barbed wire.
They cry out in desperation, but god
and the bastard gaoler politicians
who pretend to serve him,
neither hear nor act.
We can only hope
that there might be another god,
human-shaped, bleeding, weeping;
whose spirit resides in at least a few faithful hearts.
Perhaps this god is listening;
perhaps the servants of this god
have open ears,
and are not idle.
While we were asleep
the language of time began to change.
realities lost their substance.
Ideas, recently new,
were rendered obsolete.
No longer effective,
they were promptly shredded
and used to pack trinkets.
Trends evolved into essentials;
while formerly iron-clad necessities
shrivelled to nothing dust,
and were swept away.
Even beauty became something fearful,
ugly and untrue.
We woke up as aliens,
confused and perplexed.
A period of dislocation passed
while we learned a new language,
and began to recognise again
the blurry edges of truth;
with a shape somehow different,
but undiminished, glowing strong.
Grace, too, remains;
and demanding that we speak.